The Queen's Green Canopy

Leporello book design of Ancient Trees for leading artist to mark the Platinum Jubilee

The Queen’s Green Canopy, with the patronage of His Majesty The King, is a tree planting initiative established to mark The Platinum Jubilee of Her late Majesty The Queen. As part of the living legacy of Britain's Ancient Woodlands and Trees, twenty breathtaking drawings by the renowned British artist Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis were brought to life in a stunning book design, exhibited at Sotheby’s gallery, London.

What did they need?

With the exhibition serving as a fundraising opportunity, it was crucial that the book design embody both the essence of the artist's work and honour the objectives of The Queen's Canopy to create an auctionable book object suitable for gallery display.

What did I do?

In close collaboration with the artist, I defined the concept and directed production of a book design. Presented with the rare privilege to capture the artist’s work in printed form, I was conscious of the need for an accurate facsimile that celebrates the exquisite detail and intensity of her work, and how to recreate this in book form. With many landscape format artworks and the need for gallery display, we agreed upon a large scale 4m-length leporello book design that maximises the page area dedicated to each artwork. Serving as a bridge between the scroll and contemporary book, the leporello’s signature characteristic is its ability to open up and expand indefinitely as a three dimensional object.

My approach

The limited edition leporello book required a highly skilled team to mark The Platinum Jubilee, and honour the first foreword written by His Majesty Kings Charles III since his accession. I sought out talent across all stages of the production process, consolidated by consultancy for the sophisticated formation of a 4m length leporello that would stand upright independently throughout the exhibition at Sotheby’s. Multiple pages were carefully joined together with adhesive for a seamless finish across artworks.

Key outputs

The elegant design mimics the travel souvenir leporellos of the Victorian era, depicting highly detailed panoramic scenes cropped from Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis’ original artwork, revealing a gallery in printed form. Every intricate element is finely curated, from the intensity of the ink to the crackle of the paper, to immerse oneself into an ancient arboretum. This majesty of explorations surpasses the traditional book, with a sculptural drama of immense magnitude emerging from a series of folds.

To honour the interests of His Majesty King Charles III, the leporello is headed by a casebound folio that helps preserve the endangered craft of tree-marbling, complimented along the spine with Woodland Calf from the Highgrove Estate and 23 karat gold-leaf. The tree pattern is hand-marbled by Trevor Lloyd MBE, one of only two known experts world-wide to practise this rare decorative technique. First used in the late 1770s it became very popular, yet it is challenging to execute well. The pattern is a result of an aqueous solution of chemicals on leather, to shape a tree and its crown of branches.¹

The term “leporello” is an eponym from the manservant in Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787). During the Catalogue Aria, Leporello produces an accordion style list that he unfolds to reveal the “mille e tre” (a thousand and three) mistresses of his master. Serving as a bridge between the scroll and contemporary book, the leporello’s signature characteristic is its ability to open up and expand indefinitely as a three dimensional object. When the leporello is folded, it mirrors the efficient structure of a traditional book, to be enjoyed page by page.

At Sotheby’s exhibition (December 2022), the leporello presented a rare opportunity to compare printed reproductions with the artist’s originals, with remarkable fidelity. It was displayed as a three dimensional object of 4.2 metres (13 feet 9 inches) in length, to be viewed from all angles. Following the auction, the leporello was housed within an exquisitely hand crafted solander box, with Green Colorado Liffey, brass-die foil, lined with Palladium Suedel, silver ribbons, inset with an original artwork and signed booklet by Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis.

Let's work together to build something great.

© 2020 Squarepeg Co. All Rights Reserved.